[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Nalo Hopkinson and Dan Watters
Artist: Dominike “DOMO” Stanton
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Deron Bennett
That monster Shakpana has released a human monster from jail, but instead of them doing all the dirty, terrible rotten things that Shakpana would like to do, Hector just mopes and feels dead and paints and is miserable. This is no surprise to us as we have seen what happens when one is struck with the sickness. For some reason, our villain though this would be different. A crack in his armor? Maybe
Meanwhile, in the Dreaming, Madame Erzulie, Uncle Monday, the souls of Maggie and Toya and The Corinthian are on a mission. Yep. That is something totally unexpected. They sail through the dreaming to meet up with everyone’s favorite trickster god Ananse. Well, everyone who loves spiders anyway. That meeting goes about as well as you might expect when one encounters a spider god who eats stories.
There is this scene about halfway through the book where Uncle Monday tells an Ananse trickster story and the story tricks him. It is absolutely brilliantly written and drawn. This may actually be the best few panels in the entire series. It feels so perfectly placed and while it does not much to move the story along, it tells the reader everything she or he needs to know about Ananse AND it is beautifully drawn by Domo, who is always bringing the heat.
There is a line after that incident where Monday says it is only a story and the Corinthian says, “Stories are often only someone else’s truths.” That line is so good. Seriously, again, that captures the essence of the Sandman Universe so it is perfect that Corinthian gets to say it, because Monday and Erzulie are not from there. Again, it is a small thing, but it is excellent storytelling.
Finally, the splash page that shows us what Shakpana has done to the world and why is stunning. People will clamor for this as a work of high art. So amazing. I can not tell you enough how much time you should spend just staring at it. I got distracted just now looking again. Wow.
The story of Hector, the monstrous prisoner is both heartbreaking and life affirming. I know that seems confusing, but you just need to read it. You need to see how he pays for his crimes and how even in that, he is a victim of Shakpana who is proving to be one of the most horrific villains in the Sandman Universe.
Finally, Ananse shows up and that is amazing. What a set up. The art is creepy and perfect. The story is layered and rich. Just fantastic.
While some of the dialogue is really excellent this month, there is some stuff with Shakpana and Hector, his host body, that just doesn’t work. It is either too clunky or it goes the other way and feels absurd. I get they have to communicate, but I just don’t think it landed as well as it could. Maybe thought bubbles instead of speech bubbles was the way to go. Shakpana is inside Hector so one would think they don’t need to talk. In fact, this is what happens at the end.
In fact, as excellent as the story with Ananse is, the dialogue in general is flat. I am not sure how to solve this as things need to be explained, but it does seem like some of the story could be told visually or by having someone else do the explaining. Ananse, has a few pages of exposition that just drag on.
This is the best book of the run. 8 books in and things are looking up. I can only hope that the set up for the next issue actually lasts for two. I don’t want to give too much away, but you are going to want to be here for issue 9. Things are getting good.